Underwater videography can be challenging for many reasons. Most of the time, people think that an expensive set-up with a camera, underwater housing, tray, lights and of course, color filters, but there are many other factors that count in when filming underwater. To present a camera that does not require the above-mentioned equipment, Paralenz teamed up with blue o two, MARES and Fourth Element and created the Paralenz Videography Workshop.

Here is the overall experience straight from Mark Crowley Russell, the amazing writer for Dive Magazine!

Underwater videography workshop in Egypt

4 August 2018 onboard blue o two’s M/Y blue Melody, and team Paralenz is preparing to brief the assembled divers about their unexpected mission over the next week in the southern Red Sea: to capture their experiences as Paralenz underwater camera testers.

The entire team that joined the Underwater Videography Workshop

After less than 2 hours’ sleep and a check dive, marketing manager Jacob Dalhoff, whose limitless supply of internal energy keeps him bouncing around like the Energizer bunny after a couple of pints of espresso, is looking decidedly nervous about the upcoming workshop for underwater videography.

Martin Holmberg, CEO, and co-founder of the Paralenz project is keeping a watchful eye over proceedings – a slightly more reserved ‘straight man’ alongside Jacob’s perpetual effervescence.

Joining them on stage are Paralenz devotees and competition winners Gary McCarty and Mikkel Schmedes, DIVE Magazine’s Mark (never call me that) ‘Crowley’ Russell and internationally renowned Mission Blue and National Geographic photographer Kip Evans.

The nerves are not without foundation. The Paralenz has been successful in its first year of production, but this is the first time the team has attempted to get an entire liveaboard to test their camera together.

The divers on board for blue o two’s ‘Simply the Best’ itinerary – Daedalus, Elphinstone, and the Brothers – are an eclectic group of people with a broad range of experience; some have squeezed their budgets to be here, others are yet to experience the delights of the southern Red Sea. Half the divers on board have traveled all the way from Hong Kong, a world capital of technology where ‘second-best’ on the market is pretty much equivalent to ‘non-starter’.

The underwater testing of the Paralenz Dive Camera

It was with a huge amount of relief, therefore, when Jacob asked who would like to take a Paralenz out for testing, that almost the entire boat, including the guides, raised their hands. After a quick briefing, cameras were handed out and the underwater videography workshop began.

There were a few misty eyes when the hands were raised. This trip was a big gamble for the Paralenz boys and it was clear to see on Jacob and Martin’s faces how much that moment meant to them. Jacob returned to his default setting of ‘slightly manic’; the pride on Martin’s face as he explained the camera and its various associated gadgets was evident.

Over 250 divers from 38 countries participated in the development of the Paralenz. So the slogan runs: ‘Designed by divers, built by divers – for divers.’ Even with that support behind them, it’s fair to say that a small team taking on the might of GoPro still has to have very large – er – confidence levels. The same might be said about the team’s plan to take on a keen bunch of divers who were there to enjoy their holiday, most of whom were unaware of the experiment before they arrived.

The diver’s experience

The first day of diving with the camera brought a few teething problems: minor firmware issues which were rapidly corrected; somebody managed to stick an SD card into the charging slot (how!?), and a little bit of ‘user error’ as the divers experimented with their new-found toy.

During the next day at Daedalus reef, however, the surface intervals found most of the divers enthusiastic about the camera and the footage they had recorded, particularly of the group of hammerheads that turned up during the second dive. Those who had managed to download the smartphone app before the blue Melody left the range of local Internet access were already logging their dives.

Two days later at Little Brother, after another day of practice at Elphinstone, everybody’s attention was focused on the oceanic white-tip sharks that came to play with the divers. We also learned that the Paralenz is much more versatile than we first realized – it makes an excellent tank-banger to alert divers when sharks are following closely behind Gary’s tasty-looking legs – with absolutely no damage and no deterioration in performance.

By the time we moved on to Big Brother for some more shark-related excitement, we had a veritable group of Paralenz experts on board. Although the divers had originally only been shown how to use the snap record feature, which takes pictures with a single pull of the camera’s action button and video with a longer hold, the intuitive nature of the selector ring and the menu system made experimentation easy.

The voice of the testers

In a market saturated by action cameras geared towards the Instagratification of their users, not so many manufacturers paid attention to what divers really needed. Paralenz did. And by the end of the trip, as we watched a hastily-edited compilation of 5 days’ worth of footage. The entire boat – including the guides and techno-savvy team Hong Kong – had nothing but high praise for the Paralenz at the end of the trip.

 ‘Worlds above the GoPro’! Is how one of the divers described the camera that was designed by divers, built by divers – for divers. There’s really no greater compliment than that.

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P.S.: Here is a gallery of photos from the trip 🙂